Archive for the Manly Ways Category

Can’t Stand It

Posted in Manly Ways, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 15, 2013 by davegerry
The annual limbo beneath the limbs

Where I limbo ‘neath the limbs

Every yuletide, for as long as I can remember, I have struggled with the Christmas tree stand.

The Christmas tree stand is second only to the garden hose on my list of uncooperative inanimate objects. Some years are better than others. If I buy a fairly straight-trunked tree with fewer bushy branches down low, I am doing myself an immense favour. If you complicate just one of the engineering elements that constitute placing the tree in the stand…your life becomes a holiday hell!

I now have the tree in the stand this year but, because there are a number of attractive low-slung branches, which I am trying to retain, topping up the water reservoir has become a curious and painful blend of yoga and isometrics! I know there are stands out there with little plastic pipes and such that help deliver water to the tree…but I’m committed to this cast iron, rock solid, no-tipsy stand now….and I’m not buying another.

I still remember by father’s efforts at stabilizing the family Christmas tree using a a large bucket full of rocks. Once he had the trunk wedged into the rocks he would get on a ladder and wire the top of the tree to a nearby curtain rod. Sometimes the wire would loosen the trunk from the rocks and sometimes the rocks would pull down the curtain rod. Time for another rum and eggnog…oh, and hold the eggnog!

This year’s tree is sucking back liquid like Richard Burton. Every few hours I arm myself with a flashlight and a small ,long-spouted watering can, shimmy beneath the boughs and attempt to refill the reservoir. It is taxing muscles that I haven’t used in decades. It is ripping the teflon patch from my abdomen that was once placed there to contain a hernia. I am holding the watering can at arms length while propping myself up on one elbow and attempting to train the beam of the flashlight on the dark recesses of the reservoir so that I don’t overfill the container and thus make a mess on the carpet. I may make a mess on the carpet myself at this rate!  And to make this exercise even more uncomfortable, I am trying to see what I’m doing through a pair of progressive eyeglass lenses that are not remotely calibrated for this complicated depth of field.

This is why people buy plastic Christmas trees and spritz about the house with pine-scented Febreze.

Still, I find it oddly satisfying. As long as I can crawl under the tree I suppose I will. It’ll fall over one day and pin me to the floor with sap and tinsel. But there are worse ways to go.

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Stop me before I Repair Again

Posted in Manly Ways with tags , , on September 19, 2013 by davegerry
A slippery slope

A slippery slope

I just succeeded in applying a rust-laden coat of paint to part of a ceiling in our home. The rust was cloaked within tiny globs at the bottom of the paint can. The paint was old but still fluid. But, in an effort to be frugal, I thought I could salvage it. I carefully popped the lid and then stirred the old paint with an attachment on my electric drill. It worked beautifully..right up to the point where I rolled hundreds of, hitherto hidden, rusty bits across the ceiling. It now looks somewhat like the newly laid egg of a thrush. This is not what I was going for, folks.

Nothing makes me angrier than home repair gone awry and I always ask myself the same question. Why is nothing ever simple? I used to think poorly of people who let their properties go…now I realize the wisdom of their ways. If it ain’t broke…don’t fix it. Even if it is broke…don’t fix it yourself. This is why God created guys named Earl who drive panel trucks !

The greatest example of Yours Truly boldly (and stupidly) striding into territory that should have been avoided, occurred many years back when, early one lovely morning, I got it into my head to look behind a chromed plate in our upstairs shower. I didn’t need to do this. I just wanted to know if there was some kind of waterproofed sealant back there.

So I stood in shower, in nothing but pj bottoms, and unscrewed the universal knob that controls the water to the showerhead. After three turns of the last screw the knob blew off the wall like a shot out of a cannon. It hit me squarely in the chest and the resulting gusher (like a fire-hose) not only flung my glasses out of the stall, it pinned me squarely against the glass wall of the shower. Then (like in an episode of I Love Lucy) I tried to put the knob back…all the while channeling water into the hole behind the now absent plate.

The kids, having their Fruit Loops at the breakfast table below, began to notice water trickling out of the ceiling fixture.

I tore down the stairs, threw myself into the darkened, concrete crawl space beneath the house and scrambled frantically about until I found the shut off valve. Then I just sat there…gasping for air, damply in the dark. I had a welt on my chest, blood running from my knees and a pair of glasses imbedded in the bathroom ceiling. It is part of my therapy that I write about it here.

Next time you see something you think needs attention, do yourself a favour and call Earl.

Having a Field Day

Posted in Manly Ways with tags , , , , on May 16, 2013 by davegerry
Where winners abound

Where winners abound !

I walked by a huge university athletic complex today where hundreds of school kids were , literally, having a field day. It must have been thrilling for them. They were standing on a professional track..perfectly maintained, meticulously marked..listening to the public address announcer call out the names of the participating schools while their classmates cheered them on from the stands. Who wouldn’t feel great in such an environment? Who wouldn’t feel like a champion?

Contrast this to the ‘field day’ for those of us who grew up in the 1960’s. It wasn’t bad enough that you were just trying to grind out the school year to get to summer vacation…but, at the 11th hour, you were now subjected to humiliation on the unforgiving field of athletic competition. Understand, folks…there were no ribbons for just showing up in those days. These were dark and primitive times when the world…even for children…was actually full of winners and losers. Losers!!! Those lousy Field Days can stick with you for life.

I hated Field Day..or Athletic Day…or Let’s Humiliate the Awkward Kids Day…whatever you wanted to call it. We never competed in some fancy schmancy arena. You walked out to a scrubby piece of the playground where you were always being picked last for a team and , just 24 hours earlier , some bigger kid had given you an atomic wedgie.

I was not an athletic child. Thus, I never collected one ribbon on Field Day. Some of my classmates were festooned like George S. Patton by the time the bell finally rang in the afternoon. I couldn’t even get the Hop, Skip and Jump right. Nobody gives you a thumb’s up for a Hop, Jump and a Skip. You can hurt yourself that way!

No, I kept in shape by being sarcastic with bullies..and then trying to outrun them. There’s an event. I called it the Survival Dash.

Field Day victors often go on to live celebrated high school lives. They excel in sports which places them in a much higher social circle than , say , kids who are in the tropical fish club. But here’s a warning to Field Day aficionados. Mind that you don’t peak too early in life. By the time I had worked in television a couple of decades,  I was contacted by a former Field Day victor..one of those kids who snubbed me as he rose through the ranks…collecting laurel wreaths and dating all the best girls.

He called me up to ask if I remembered him (I did) and I discovered that his post-highschool existence had been beyond banal. Gone were the adoring crowds. His ribbons had faded with time. I think he was selling cemetery plots.

If you give life enough time, it’ll level that damn playing field.

The Peplum

Posted in Manly Ways with tags , , , , on February 24, 2013 by davegerry
Too much flounce?

Too much flounce?

One of the benefits of shopping with my wife is that it puts things on my radar that have never been there before. Not once.

For example, she’s looking for a top with a nice peplum. Well who isn’t? But seriously folks…I’d never heard of the term ‘peplum’, which apparently has its roots on the dusty fashion runways of ancient Greece.

Now I find myself very peplum-aware. I can confidently drop the word ‘peplum’ into casual conversation and fashion-forward people will think more of me….if that’s possible.

When you shop with a peplum-seeking woman your focus also becomes very peplum-specific, in that all peplums are apparently not created equal. For example, if you have outgrown the Gidget stage (there’s a dated reference) you do not want a flouncy peplum. Flouncy is for the young and carefree.

You want a cleaner, more classic peplum…as befits your standing in the community.

Frankly, I just like using the word peplum. It has some of the same pronounceable cachet as philtrum (the fleshy vertical ridges between the nose and the upper lip).

There’s no compelling reason for a man to know anything about the peplum, just as there’s no reason for the average woman to have the slightest knowledge of the urinal puck.

The Science of the Shoe

Posted in Manly Ways with tags , , , , , , on January 22, 2013 by davegerry
Wired to wear

Wired to wear

I was in North America’s largest shoe museum recently. Why do we need a shoe museum? Well, if you delve just slightly into the research, you’ll see that footwear has had a major impact on everything from our locomotion to our libidos.

The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto cuts an extraordinary swath through a 4,500-year-old history of footwear. You’ve got ancient Egyptian sandals within a bun toss of Justin Bieber’s sneakers. Guess which pair you have to guard more closely.

There are parts of our brains that are specifically stimulated by shopping for shoes.  There is a different segment of grey matter that synapses over , say, buying a new barbecue…..and, as if it isn’t already obvious, the shoe lobe is a much smaller area in men. Men are stimulated by looking at women in shoes. Well, men are stimulated just looking at women..period.

Women can effortlessly remove men from this equation altogether.

If you stop women on the sidewalk and ask them about the size of their shoe inventory (as I did) they get this kind of misty, far-away look in their eyes, followed by a wave of embarrassment. Their voices always go up at the end of the answer. I ask: How many shoes do you own? And they say: Twenty-five?…..Thirty?…Fifty? There’s always a question mark at the end of their responses…as if they’re asking me! How would I know? (A survey last year claimed an average shoe collection of 17 pairs per woman.)

I am one of those guys you see marooned  in the middle of the shopping mall on uncomfortable seating while my wife samples every shoe store she can find. She once dragged me across every cobblestone in Puerto Vallarta in search of a mythological white sandal. It was hot. It was uncomfortable. And we might as well have been looking for a unicorn.

It didn’t matter, of course, because her brain was being stimulated, whether she actually found that snappy, strappy little number or not. She was surfing on a tsunami of dopamine while dragging me along and thinking: Next time I’ll leave this dope-of-mine at home !

Catch a Wave

Posted in Manly Ways with tags , , , , , on November 22, 2012 by davegerry

Image

Recently, I surfed. I had only surfed once in my life before. It was many, many years ago and I stood atop the board wearing a white laboratory coat, large glasses and buck teeth. That’s a long story.

This time I spent a good two hours riding something more akin to swells than waves into a protected harbour on the island of Maui.

If you’ve never really surfed, the entire aim of the initial encounter with the board (which is about the size of an aircraft carrier deck)  is to stand. That’s it. If you stand, you have succeeded. People who are able to carve their wave down the face of monstrous,thundering waves have clearly been born to the surfboard. These are other creatures entirely.

So I stood. I stood successfully. And that’s all I was seeking from the two hour lesson. Surfing seems to be somewhat akin to golf , in that if you concentrate too much on critical movement and the precise placement of various body parts you will basically paralyze yourself. You will lock up. After I managed to paddle out, find the wave, crouch on my knees and then rise to my feet, the board took me wherever wind and wave determined. I had no expectation of control. I was just thrilled to be vertical.

On another island, at another time, I once tried my hand at windsurfing. I considered myself to be  a pretty good sailor and I regarded the windsurfer as an easily managed single sail watercraft. This was a gross underestimation and, as a result, I spent about two hours repeatedly falling off the windsurfer in front of a waterfront patio packed with amused diners. Did they care that I was close to drowning? Not really. Pass the sangria.

So I know now not to take a sense of balance for granted. I listened carefully to the surfing instructor and I followed every step to the letter.

And I stood.

Dammit…I stood!

That First Drop is a Doozie!

Posted in Manly Ways with tags , , , , , on April 25, 2012 by davegerry

The look up

Recently I climbed an extremely long and lofty stairway to heaven..well, it wasn’t quite that profound…but the countless steps did take me to the top of what will (for now) be Canada’s tallest roller coaster. The Leviathan, at Canada’s Wonderland just north of Toronto, is the kind of attraction designed to defibrillate even the most jaded roller coaster nut. From the top of the first climb you plummet at an angle of about 80 degrees at a speed of 90 mph. At this velocity, screams don’t actually emit from the human form. They simply turn around and dive back down the throat.

I have no personal goals or ambitions to climb anything high. I may want to sail an ocean someday but there’s no overwhelming drive to escape the earth’s atmosphere. Everybody’s got their thing, right?

I did the prerequisite amount of climbing when I was a child and, frankly,  it brought me nothing but pain and discomfort. I remember clambering up a very high tree once to get a look at the eggs inside a hawk’s nest. The problem was I didn’t know how to get down. My father eventually found me by tracing my steps to the trunk and spent an eternity talking me out of my wayward perch.

I also recall ascending the rickety steps into a friend’s treehouse only to suddenly impale the top of my scalp on a protruding (and rusty) nail. I just hung there, stuck on the nail with blood streaming down my face, until a neighbour (who happened to be a nurse) came to the rescue. Truth be told, I was far more fearful of the ensuing tetanus shot than I was of the head injury.

And then there was my journey to the edge of Mexico’s famed Copper Canyon. I was producing a documentary and wanted the cameraman to get a shot of me peering over the edge into the most unimaginable chasm. (The Copper Canyon is four times the size of the Grand Canyon.)  The shooter set up the camera from about half a mile away and gave some hand signals to start me moving, but once I got to within a yard or so of the edge, I froze….and my knees began to buckle. We got the shot and I stumbled back as fast as I could but I always consider that this moment could have been my very last appearance on camera…just a long steady shot of a tiny man pitching into the abyss.

Cameraman Filmer ready at the Copper Canyon

So, I don’t get any kind of high from being on high. I don’t how many steps there were to get to the 306 foot pinnacle of The Leviathan. My thighs were on fire. My hamstrings twanged. It was a fantastic view, that’s for sure, and apparently I will be one of the first media people aboard the first day of the coaster. I’m not a coaster kook. I’m not one of those people who will go out of their way to lose their lunch on the latest version of a vomitron.

The look down

Once you’re strapped into one of these things you’re basically just hanging on to your entrails. It’ll take a little more than three minutes to do the circuit. How hard could it be?  Once you hit the top and hurtle like a peregrine falcon toward earth, the hardest part has got to be over. Right?  Anyway, I’ll give it a shot at the end of the week and give you an update.

You know, there is really nothing quite so reckless as an old guy with very little to lose.